The Tampa Bay Lightning thrives while the Tampa Bay media look elsewhere in sports

Late this summer, before the NFL season was underway, the Tampa Bay Times did the Tampa Bay-media thing and played up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season ahead. “Most talented offense ever?” discussion before a regular season game had been played seemed like… well, an attempt to raise expectations.

I’m not here to judge the Buccaneer season as it nears a conclusion, I’m here to ask about the Tampa Bay Lightning.

See, with that hype about the Bucs, there hasn’t been the same headline-priority work for the Bolts in the Tampa Bay media, at least not from what I’ve seen. All while the Bolts are doing what counters Tampa Bay college and pro sports teams most of the time: Winning and winning. And winning.

After Saturday night’s lop-sided victory over the Colorado Avalanche, the Lightning stood at 23-7-1 after 31 games of play so far. That’s a .742 win percentage and point percentage (the common average stat in the NHL with thanks to their point system). Despite injuries hampering the team (which has rendered the franchise impotent in years past – 2016-17 specifically) the club is still at the top of the pops, leading the NHL in points (47), wins(23) and goals-for (124).

Here’s another number of note: 23 wins is half of what the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning amassed in 82 regular-season games. The club’s current 124 goals-for is just more than half the 2003-04 club’s season total of 245.

I’d also like to touch on Brayden Point’s Oh-my-God hat trick in 91 seconds of play (interrupted by an intermission). This was the fastest natural hat trick the league had seen in almost 30 years. [Author note: This did not happen in the 7-1 win cited in this piece, it happened in November and was one hell of a feat.]

Point is vying for the NHL lead in goals, everyone is lighting the lamp for God sake (including Ondrej Palat, who returned from injury to score his first and second goals of the season in the Avs game Saturday).

My question to the Tampa Bay Times is: Where’s the hype? Where’s the admission that the hockey team currently at play at 401 Channelside Drive renders the mediocre standard of Tampa Bay sports as null and void? Major League Baseball is one hell of a challenge and raising expectations with winning for the Tampa Bay Rays is asking MLB itself to change. The University of South Florida Bulls aren’t the nation’s top tier of college sports, nor the state of Florida’s for that matter.

And the Buccaneers… Oh, lordy, you’ve kissed the ass of one of the least competitive franchises in professional sports for too long. You’ve given priority to Jameis Winston’s transgressions as if they matter more than standard news affecting the masses… All while the Lightning is meh filler news fodder despite earning international interest for their contention in the premiere league of ice hockey.

The media questions that should be asked of relevance in headlines right now are:

  • Is this the best Tampa Bay Lightning team of all time?
  • Is Lightning hockey the most potent offense it has ever known?
  • Will the Lightning contend for Lord Stanley’s Cup?

51 games of NHL play remain. That’s one hell of a chore before the proverbial second season of the NHL begins. If the Lightning make the playoffs (which seems certainty with current play), they will have achieved the feat 11 times in 25 seasons of play (26 years of existence — but the 2004-05 lockout erases one season of play). That tops the Buccaneers 10 playoff appearances in 42 seasons.

One last question: Will the media give the Lightning a better dose of coverage with continued success? Sadly, that’s arguable. Prioritizing the status-quo of the sports that dominate national media is what will continue, even if the Bucs don’t contend and the Rays play as also-rans.

It’s a shame, really, because Lightning success gives a reason to take local pride. Damnit, this Bolts team is fantastic and I’m proud!